Laborers stop work at İstanbul airport construction site over 3-month delay in wages

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An employee looks over towards the control tower of the Istanbul New Airport under construction on April 13, 2018, during press tour in northern Istanbul. - The inauguration of the airport, a Grimshaw design in collaboration with an international architectural team, is planned to to take place in October 2018. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

More than one hundred workers at İstanbul’s new airport construction site launched a work stoppage on Monday because they have not received their wages for the last three months, BBC Turkish service reported.

According to the İYİ-SEN workers union, the laborers asked officials about their pay on Monday and they were told, “You can work if you like, if you don’t you can stop work.”

However the primary contractor, İGA, told BBC Turkish service that there was no strike or work stoppage at the site.

Workers at the construction site went on strike on Sept. 14 due to allegedly dangerous working conditions that have caused hundreds of deaths.

After the first strike a Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of hundreds of workers on accusations of violating the law on meetings and demonstrations, violating the right of others to earn a living, damaging public property and inciting hatred and hostility among the people.

Twenty-eight workers have been in pretrial detention since the strike. A union leader was also arrested on Oct. 5 over his role in staging the strike and protests.

According to a Diken news website report, workers on Sunday claimed that a colleague had been missing for three days and that they found him in a drainage channel.

The Cumhuriyet daily reported in February that more than 400 workers had died since the beginning of the construction; however, Turkish officials denied the report and said only little more than 30 workers had lost their lives at the construction site due to work-related injuries.

Workers also complained about food and housing on the construction site, claiming that their rooms were full of bed bugs and fleas, which led a number of workers to quit.

They were reportedly under pressure to finish the project as soon as possible in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an impossible task according to observers given the size of the project.

Located on the Black Sea, İstanbul’s new airport will initially have the capacity to handle around 90 million passengers per year, but that number is expected to rise to 150 million by 2023, according to the media.

It is expected to be open to flights at the end of December.

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